February 08, 2009

Monday, 2/9

Jonesin' 4:24
BEQ 3:54
Sun 3:41
LAT 2:34
NYT 2:26

In Randall Hartman's New York Times crossword, there's a TV SET in the middle of the puzzle to unite the set of four T.V. phrase theme entries:

  • TWO VIRGINS is a [1968 album by John Lennon and Yoko Ono], and the title is surprisingly unfamiliar to me.
  • TRADER VIC's is a [Polynesian-themed restaurant chain].
  • TRIAL VENUE is probably a [Courtroom], isn't it?
  • TRAVEL VISA is a [Document checked at the border].
If you're new to the Times crossword, here are some of the answers that you'll be seeing again (and again...and again):
  • [French friends] are AMIS. This and other forms of that common French word are regular guests of the crossword: Male singular, AMI. Female singular AMIE. Female plural, AMIES.
  • DRAY is a [Heavy cart]. The word is from the late Middle English, and I have no idea if drays are still in use in the developed world.
  • EIRE is the Irish name for Ireland, [Land of the so-called "Troubles"]. (Weren't the Troubles more in Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K.?) ERIN is the poetic name for Ireland, and both names are 4-letter words starting with E.
  • Czar is the usual spelling, unless you're doing a crossword. Then it's probably TSAR, as it is here for the clue [Shah : Iran :: ___ : Russia].
  • UAE is the abbreviation for the United Arab Emirates. [Dubai and Abu Dhabi are part of it: Abbr.] Less commonly, a crossword might have UAR, the erstwhile United Arab Republic (I think it was Egypt and Syria united.)
  • [Bewildered] clues AT SEA. In crossword world, AT SEA means confused and ASEA means sailing on the sea.
  • ["A Death in the Family" author James] AGEE won a Pulitzer prize posthumously, and clues sometimes reference that fact.
  • ARTE has three main clues: [Commedia dell'___], comedian Arte Johnson, or the Spanish/Italian (?) word for "art."
  • [Caustic compounds] clues LYES. The 3-letter singular is more common in crosswords.
  • ERAT is clued as [The "E" of Q.E.D.], or quod erat demonstrandum. That's Latin, as is ECCE, or [Behold, to Brutus].
  • ["Keen!"] sounds retro and so does the answer, NEATO. Less commonly, the exclamation NERTS (meaning "Nuts!") shows up in a crossword.
  • Franz LEHAR is ["The Merry Widow" composer].
  • [Former Davis Cup captain Arthur] is tennis legend Arthur ASHE. Clues often reference Ashe Stadium, where the U.S. Open is played.
Cool answers: BATTER UP, or [Umpire's call at the start of an inning]; the STEELERS, [2009 Super Bowl champs].


Pete Muller, who snuck a stealth theme into his Saturday NYT crossword, goes postal in his Sun crossword. It's called "Zipped In" because the ZIP code of BEVERLY HILLS ([Location with an associated number hidden in...] the theme entries) is zipped into the midst of five otherwise unrelated theme entries—I've circled the letters that spell out NINE OH TWO ONE OH (90210). No overt links to the old or new TV shows here, just the ZIP code and municipality. Highlights in the fill:
  • A [Soap, frequently] is a MELODRAMA. This relates to the 90210 show, but its opposite number in the grid is MAXISKIRT, and that has nothing to do with '90s-and-beyond Beverly Hills fashion.
  • [Person from Paris] is a TEXAN if you're talking about Paris, Texas. Great movie, that.
  • FERRET as a verb most commonly means to root around for something until you find it. The clue, [Drive (out)], goes with an older meaning, using ferrets to drive rabbits out of their rabbit holes.
  • Speaking of older meanings, gotta love SMITHY, or [Forge].
  • [Like a nerd] clues UNCOOL. Some nerds have coolness, at least within nerdly confines.
  • [Bobby Ewing portrayer Patrick] DUFFY amuses me for two reasons: The monster on South Park some years back who had Patrick Duffy for a leg, and Patrick Duffy's starring role as the web-toed, web-fingered Man From Atlantis on late-'70s TV.

Today's LA Times crossword by Bob Rois has a theme that breaks no new ground—Nancy Salomon had an '02 LAT puzzle with two of the same theme answers, and there have also been NYT and Sun puzzles with the same basic theme—but it's no less fun for that. The four theme answers are rhyming phrases that start with an H:
  • The HOKEY POKEY is a [Group dance song with the repeated lyric "that's what it's all about"].
  • HURLY-BURLY means [Commotion].
  • HOITY-TOITY means [Pretentious].
  • HANKY-PANKY is [Funny business].
Other H rhyming phrases include hodgepodge, Henny Penny, hocus pocus, herky-jerky, and handy-dandy, so there's a lot of material to choose from for this theme. These phrases tend to have some innate entertainment value—they're just fun to say—so you could do worse than to cop this theme if you were making a crossword to entertain your friends. The Rois puzzle is notable for having a quartet of 9-letter answers in the non-theme fill. If you're like me and you went through this puzzle from top to bottom, you pondered what the HOKEY POKEY and a PEDOMETER might have in common.

Today's Brendan Emmett Quigley–brand crossword (accept no substitutes!) says "All Keyed Up: Take CTRL of the situation" in the title bar. I paid no mind to that title until after I finished the puzzle, and it was only then that I realized the theme entries weren't two phrases mashed together, they're phrases changed by the addition of a computer key:
  • [Wilco and Ryan Adams isn't marketed to fogeys?] clues NO ALT-COUNTRY FOR / OLD MEN, with a Windows ALT key added to the movie title to make it about the alt-country music genre.
  • [Futuristic tournament schedule?] is a SPACE-AGE BRACKET, as in the NCAA March Madness bracket reworked for the space age. (I do love the retro "space-age" as an adjective. I should describe rebus crosswords as "space-age puzzles.") There is a key for the bracket punctuation, but the I think the only computer key at play here is the SPACE bar.
  • [Those who perform sorties at 3 A.M.?] are ARMIES OF THE NIGHT SHIFT (shift key).
Favorite answers:
  • The CLERIHEW is a [Four-line biographical poem]. I should have a blog contest: Write a clerihew about a person whose name appears regularly in crosswords. Who's interested?
  • CUL DE SAC is clued with [It provides no outlets].
  • A [Beak] is a SCHNOZ.
  • Big Papi ORTIZ, Derek JETER, and LOU Piniella refused to let me interpret [Pitcher's stat] as anything other than a baseball clue. The answer is AD FEE.
  • ["Smoke Signals" screenwriter Sherman] ALEXIE wrote a helluva movie. It's packed with drolly memorable lines and characters. I hear Alexie likes crosswords—wonder if he's seen his name in the grid before.
The first book collection of Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword is now available. Here's the Amazon page for Jonesin' for Crosswords. Today's puzzle is called "Just Playing," which is synonymous with "screwing around." Each theme answer has SCREW AROUND (38-Across) it:
  • SCOTTISH BREW includes [Red MacGregor, McEwan's Lager, or Tennent's Super, in pubs].
  • SCREAM OUT / THE WINDOW is clued [With 45-Across, contact a pedestrian from a tall building, in a way]. Hmm, that's kinda pushing it as a crossword answer. "Scottish brew" isn't necessarily an in-the-language unit of meaning, either.
  • SKELETON CREW is a familiar phrase. It's clued as [Understaffed situation].
The last square I filled in here was at the crossing of [Gluttonous exchange student on "The Simpsons"] and ["Street Fighter: The Legend of ___-Li" (2009 movie)]. Oy! Possibly made-up foreign name meets Chinese name that could plausibly be CHAN, CHEN, CHIN, CHON, or CHUN. I tried all five vowels before Across Lite let me know the U was correct, for UTER meets CHUN. Here's a Simpsons wiki page about Üter.